McMaster’s late magic secures dream debut and series win

Game one: Ireland 2 (K Mullan, E Russell) Scotland 0
Ireland opened up their three-game series in Scotland with a 2-0 win in chilly conditions in Clydesdale Hockey Club, a tie played at a frantic pace with both Roisin Upton and Ellen Curran making their debuts.

Nicci Daly, recently returned to international hockey after a stint working in the US, showed no signs of a spell away as her speed and skills put Scotland under early pressure.

However, it was Grace O’Flanagan in the Irish goal who was called on first to make a top-class save and keep the score 0-0 in the opening minutes. Cliodhna Sargent marshalled the backline as Scotland began to press and attack down the right.

The first corner of the game came courtesy of Emma Russell’s work but a mis-trap let Scotland off the hook. Sargent again showed her experience as she fired a pinpoint pass to a composed Nikki Evans who released the ball to captain Katie Mullan to get the final touch goal-bound to give her side the lead in the 17th minute.

Less than five minutes later and the Green Army were 2-0 up thanks to well executed passing from Shirly McCay to Ali Meeke whose silky skills in the circle found Russell to double her sides lead – her first international goal.

O’Flanagan was in superb form all evening as she was called on to make two top saves in the opening minutes of the second half as Scotland came flying out of the blocks. But the resurgence did not last long as Hannah Matthews ably dealt with Scottish attacks.

The Green Army’s corner routines were not firing as Evans, Rebecca Barry and Zoe Wilson all won corners for their side but a third goal eluded the Irish.

Ireland: G O’Flanagan, Sargent, Brown, Evans, Mullan (Captain), McCay, Watkins, Daly, Matthews, Russell, Wilson
Subs: Cassin, Pinder, Upton, Curran, Meeke, Barry, McGirr

Game two: Ireland 2 (L Tice, J McMaster) Scotland 1 (H Lang)
Teenager Jessica McMaster enjoyed a dream debut as she struck a last minute winner in her first senior international tie as Ireland nicked a 2-1 win over Scotland in game two of their series in Glasgow.

Ireland started the brighter with two penalty corners in quick succession but Zoe Wilson’s strike and Katie Mullan’s drag flick were well defended.

Scotland appeared happy to back off on the press, allowing Cliodhna Sargent to drive forward and distribute the ball at will. Grace O’Flanagan wasn’t called into action until the 23rd minute when she palmed away a shot resulting from a Scottish corner.

Both sides were dealt green cards within a minute of each other as the half wound down and the Green Army earned their third penalty corner thanks to superb link-up between Lena Tice and Sinead Loughran but the resulting shot was again well defended.

Ireland again started the second half strongly as Chloe Brown found herself one-on-one with Lucy Camlin – who previously played for Ireland at underage level – in the Scottish goal but Camlin made a strong save.

Moments later, Scotland built up a period of attack, earning a penalty corner but the ever-reliable Mullan cleared any danger.

Some of the paciest members of the Green Army like Nicci Daly, Emily Beatty, Gillian Pinder and Loughran all caused the Scottish trouble as Ireland appeared to move up a gear with shots fired across goal and Camlin forced into more saves.

But the first goal fell to Scotland as a close range shot from Heather Lang left O’Flanagan with no chance. As Ireland pushed for an equaliser they found themselves down to nine players as Brown and Mullan received yellow cards within a minute of each other.

As soon as their five minute penalties were served, parity was restored as Lena Tice drew her side level as she converted Ireland’s fourth corner in the 64th minute. A last gasp attack by Jessica McMaster saw her also score her first senior goal in the dying moment of the game to snatch victory for Ireland.

Ireland: G O’Flanagan, O’Byrne, Sargent, Brown, Tice, Pinder, Watkins (Captain), Daly, Upton, Russell, Wilson
Subs: Cassin, McMaster, Mullan, McCay, Beatty, Loughran, Maguire

Game three: Ireland 1 (N Daly) Scotland 0

In similar fashion to Tuesday’s encounter, Ireland started strongly, earning two penalty corners in quick succession but Katie Mullan’s and Chloe Watkins’ efforts were both denied. The pendulum continued to swing between the two sides as Shirley McCay and Zoe Wilson distributed the ball expertly but the final touch eluded the Green Army, while at the other end of the pitch Grace O’Flanagan was called on to make three crucial saves in a row.

It took Ireland until three minutes into the second half to get on the scoresheet courtesy of a well-worked penalty corner that saw Nicci Daly fire the ball home. There were chances aplenty for both sides as Ireland won six short corners but the Scottish defence refused to concede again.

Likewise the Irish defence were put under some pressure as Scotland racked up three corners but Clodagh Cassin, making her senior debut, was wise to any shot and kept the score at 1-0. The win means Ireland enjoyed a clean sweep of the series, a timely run of victories that will likely be the sides last international fixtures of 2016 before a tournament-filled 2017.

Ireland: G O’Flanagan, Sargent (Captain), Brown, Evans, Mullan, Tice, Loughran, Watkins, Daly, Matthews, Wilson

Subs: Cassin, O’Byrne, McCay, Beatty, Upton, Meeke, Barry

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